So this is what I have learnt recently: it is extremely difficult to “minimalize” a Bengali wardrobe! I have been trying to downsize my closet for sometime now, but it seems like no matter how much I consider giving away some, there is always a reason to hold back the others.
To get a clearer picture, I decided to categorize my clothing. Below are the list of typical categories of attires that usually, according to my deductions, fill up a Bengali wardrobe.
De-coding The Bengali Wardrobe
Everyday Wear: There are three classes in everyday wear itself- the traditional, the western and the fusion. Most women are comfortable wearing a traditional outfit like salwar kameez for everyday purpose. These are usually made of cotton, lawn or linen fabrics but georgette and silk also govern our closets for monsoon or winter seasons. University students are more comfortable with western outfits like jeans and tops or fusion or ethnic wear like taaga, offered by locals brands.
The Presentation Look: This category comprises of clothing that are a notch-up than the everyday wear but less fancier than those of parties or weddings. It is for those days when there is a presentation at university or work, or for meet-ups with friends after hours. Having little to medium embroidery, these outfits can be salwar kameezes made of silk, georgette, muslin or can be those exclusive Pakistani lawns.
Bengali Festivities: Throughout the past two decades, there has been a growing interests in celebrating the Bengali festivities; and celebration obviously calls for beautiful attires. However, it wouldn’t have been an issue if the events were not color -specific. Yes, you heard that right, we Bengalis are quite color-coordinated when it comes to our festivities.
For example, February 13, marks the first day of Spring in Bengali calendar. Known as Pohela Falgun or Bhoshonto Utshob, this day is all about wearing yellow (Boshonto = Yellow)! Now, there is a growing number of Bengalis who pay respect on February 21, International Mother Language Day with black and white attires. Finally, Pohela Boishak or Bengali New Year demands for the classic red and white combination. These outfits which are mostly sharees, are usually made of deshi fabrics with screen print, block, tie-dye or a bit of embroidery if you like.
The Great Bengali Weddings: There is nothing called “going small” when it comes to our weddings. Typically, a wedding will have a minimum of 2-3 to a maximum of 5-6 events (namely holud, mehedi, sangeet, akht, wedding, reception- phew!). While weddings revolved around winter in the past, nowadays we have wedding invitations all year round. These events are all about wearing coordinated attires in holuds and gorgeous traditional wears like katan sharees, heavily-embroideries salwar kameezes, shararas, lahengas and the recently popular enthic gowns. Wearing a simple sharee with statement neckpiece is now a rising trend.
The Western Influence: Hangout with Friends, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and New Year Parties etc. calls for what I like to call The Western Influence. For such events, we tend to move away from our traditional clothing and incline towards the Western clothes. This can be anything from formal pants, embroidered tops, maxi dresses, skirts, capes, even gowns.
The Cultural Influence
There is an underlying cultural influence that largely impact our wardrobes as well. Our somewhat strong bonding between families and extended relatives means we have a lot of events to attend every year, some of which we are happy to be a part of, while others we get dragged in to. While one may think an invitation can be denied, we Bengalis don’t take that very well. In fact, no matter what our age, university students or working professional, single or married, we get dragged by our parents to wedding of that distant uncle’s daughter whom we never met.
As a result, there is a continuous addition of clothes to our wardrobe, faster than they are disposed. In essence, apart from our necessary attires, there are myriads of events we attend as to, as social (weddings, birthdays, family get-together), cultural (Pohela Boishak, Pohela Falgun etc) and religious (Eid, Puja, Christmas etc) practices because of which we end up buying a lot of clothes, but thanks to our hyper active social media life are reluctant to repeat wear them. Given those outfits are still new, they wait at the back of our closet, in utter despair, hoping for the social media to forget them. As we have all heard ourselves say a thousand times, with a closet full of clothes, we still have nothing to wear.
Its only after I embraced minimalism, I have began to look at my clothes differently. In the past, I tried to give away clothes when they are worn out or when I buy new ones but that only applied to the everyday wears. Those katan sharees, those color-coordinated holud attires were still hanging at the back of my closet space.
In the next write-up, I hope to share with you all how I have personally worked on my closets and minimized it to the best of my abilities.
IMAGE DETAILS: TITLE: The First Day of Spring LOCATION: Faculty of Fine Arts (Charukola), Dhaka of University